Unlike some other coastal destinations, Vero Beach has managed to preserve its charm and local flavor. Though celebrities frequent this Treasure Coast town, it stays just enough under the radar that it doesn’t attract a raucous, partying crowd. Rather, Vero draws vacationers looking for beautiful beaches, vibrant food and culture scenes, and most importantly, quiet.
Vero Beach affords far more than a string of lazy afternoons filled with sun and sand. At the seat of Indian River County, which includes nearby areas Fellsmere and Sebastian, the resort town rests on the Atlantic while the peaceful Indian River Lagoon runs through it. A perfect spot to relax, shop, or participate in endless outdoor activities, this town of about 17,000 people proves that good things can come in small packages. You won’t find the typical high-rise architecture that’s common in other Florida seaside hamlets either, with four story-construction the maximum.
Glide over the back waters in a Florida Cracker Airboat
Climb aboard an airplane-engined airboat, built and operated by Vero Beach native Captain Lawrence, and strap in as it glides across the St Johns River marshes. The narrated journey explores an otherwise inaccessible parcel of Indian River County. Capture photos of blooming lotus lilies and other exotic plants, and look out for momentary glimpses of alligators, ospreys, and other wildlife. Feel free to ask questions throughout, for this is one of Florida’s most impressive and fascinating natural habitats.
CR512, Vero Beach
Find a peaceful sandy spot on the Seagrape Trail
Beach lovers longing for a remote stretch of sand with fewer sunbathers than many of the nearby beaches head to Seagrape to savor the magnificent coastline. Treasure-salvaging boats can frequently be observed in operation just off the coast. During the turtle nesting season from May to October you may get a chance to witness these majestic creatures coming ashore to lay eggs, or the little hatchlings making a bid for freedom. In any event, please keep a distance of at least 30 feet from them and don’t use torches or flash photography under any circumstances. A boardwalk on the Seagrape Trail provides easy access to this tranquil, albeit unguarded, seashore situated between Wabasso and North Beaches.
Take sail at sunset
The Moonraker is a 40-foot sailing catamaran, aboard which you can take spectacular evening excursions. With Captain Bruce Jackson at the helm, you can relax as the sun dips beneath the horizon, often to a chorus of color. Cruises often ply the “Narrows of Vero,” a popular yet peaceful section of the Indian River Lagoon, where you might spot dolphins and manatees. Bring your own snacks and beverages, which the crew will then serve once the trip is underway. Options include a short post-dinner cruise, a full day on the lagoon, or longer trips out onto the wide Atlantic Ocean.
3361 Rio Vista Blvd.
Witness sea turtles nesting on a night tour
If you choose to travel to Vero Beach in June or July, you might get lucky enough to watch a sea turtle nesting on a dark, deserted beach in Sebastian Inlet State Park, while stars shoot through the midnight blue sky. Patience is necessary while allowing for nature to run its course. But the moment when a mammoth mama turtle emerges from the sea to carefully dig the nest, lay over 100 eggs resembling ping pong balls, and then bury those eggs in the sand before returning to the ocean, is one of nature’s most remarkable spectacles. It’s much easier to appreciate the fragility of the natural world after observing it.
Sebastian Inlet State Park
Explore the lagoons in a kayak
An afternoon of kayaking on the Indian River Lagoon is a must for nature-lovers. Even if you’re a novice, it is well worth stepping outside your comfort zone. Choose from a solo kayak, or tandem if you have a partner, and coast through one of the most biologically diverse estuaries in the Northern Hemisphere. Don’t let a dolphin sighting catch you off guard, you’ll likely encounter one, or other marine creatures, as the Indian River Lagoon houses more than 3,000 animal and plant species.
Get some culture at Vero Beach Museum of Art
Located in 26-acre Riverside Park, VBMA has more than 880 works in its permanent collection, including glassworks, paintings, sculptures, drawings and photography. A cycle of exhibitions explores all sorts of movements, such as the pre-Rafaelites and German postmodernism. There are also interactive programs; take an art class, or participate in one of the museum’s humanities programs such as the International Lecture Series and the Children’s Art Festival.
3001 Riverside Park Drive
Dine on local seafood at Crab Stop
Fresh, local fish is abundant in coastal areas like Vero Beach, and this popular, laid-back eatery delivers. Proprietors Ellis and Brandy Buckner and their down-home hospitality attract scores of locals (always a good sign). Try the garlic, Maryland-style crabs (rumored to be the best in Vero), or order a tasting of fried shrimp and crawfish with sides like coleslaw, hush puppies and corn fritters. For the serious seafood eater, share a combo platter of snow clusters, jumbo shrimp, potatoes, corn and a lobster tail.
2263 14th Ave
Oceanside Shops and Restaurants
A definite shopper’s heaven, the six-block district on Ocean Drive and Cardinal Drive between Flamevine and Conn Way is brimming with one-of-a-kind boutiques, day spas, eateries, and art galleries. Shop beach-inspired finds and artifacts at M. Maison (3403 Ocean Drive); hunt gals’ casual clothing, resort wear, and costume jewelry at Treasure Lane (966 Beachland Blvd.), and stop for a bite to eat at The Tides (3103 Cardinal Drive). Spoil yourself with a massage or facial at Kimpton’s Vero Beach Hotel and Spa (3500 Ocean Drive), and complete your seaside adventure with an ice cream at Kilwin’s (3001 Ocean Drive). Opt for a pleasant afternoon of buying, browsing, dining and drinking, but not before you’re caught up in a picture-perfect view of the Atlantic Ocean.